“The antidote for mind-wandering is meta-awareness, attention to attention itself, as in the ability to notice that you are not noticing what you should, and correcting your focus. Mindfulness makes this crucial attention muscle stronger.”

—Daniel Goleman, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

Erik Aquino | Unsplash | Control your mind, improve your focus, and raise your emotional intelligence

The first things you need to know are your purpose, vision, and mission. I have shared mine below and provided the links to the blog posts where I have provided step-by-step instructions to help you build your own. Why do you need these? These three statements answer the question of where I want to be at some opinion time? What do I need to do to get there? And why I want to get there. When I know these answers, I can easily decide how to split my time and energy between tasks, which helps me ignore distractions throughout my day.

We’re more productive, successful, and happier when we improve our ability to control our minds in these three areas: Focus, Attention, and EQ. Here are links to the last four articles that I posted to help us develop your Purpose, Vision, and Mission statements. Next, here are the links to the preceding articles in this thread: my Purpose article, my Mission article, my Vision article, and the preceding one that started this, Accepting Me. Finally, here are the three statements I developed.

My Vision Statement

In five years, I will be writing freelance articles regularly, continuing my blog and newsletter, and be visiting my children regularly. I will continue to help others improve their lives in every way I can.

My Mission Statement

My mission is to work with expert freelance writers to coach me through getting my contracts for freelance writing until I become more able to proceed and understand the nuances of this work environment while continuing to publish a weekly blog, two weekly medium articles, and a newsletter.

My Purpose

My purpose is to help others grow into the best humans they can so they realize their full potential, break down barriers, and be the best writer I can be while I nurture my relationships with my children and others.

I keep these posted above my desk and in my notebooks. So now, let’s look at focus, attention, and Emotional Intelligence.

Focus

In today’s world, we’re bombarded with demands for our attention. These demands make it tough to stay focused. Merriam-Webster defines focus as being able to concentrate our attention or effort. By implication, this means that we’re focused on one task, person, conversation, or idea at a time. It also means that we limit multitasking. Psychology today states that multitasking is a myth based on neuroscience. When we multitask, our brain rapidly switches from one task to the other. Multitasking results in sometimes massive loss of time for each start/stop cycle. Studies show that if you’re deeply engrossed in a complex task, it can take up to 23 minutes to get back and focus on the task if you stop for a phone call or conversation.

From this, I hope you can see the importance of protecting your focus time, and the better you define the right tasks to work on, the more productive you will be, and the less time you will waste. So pick your assignment based on your guiding statements above and focus until completed. So what techniques will help you do this?

  1. Schedule specific time for phone calls, answering emails.
  2. Close your office door during the day so you can have focused time without disruption.
  3. Manage your energy levels to schedule your most difficult tasks when you’re the most alert.

Attention

Attention goes hand-in-hand with focus. According to Merriam-Webster, attention is the act or power of carefully thinking about, listening to, or watching someone or something. Unfortunately, our attention is interrupted daily, and we should ignore most of the interruptions until we’re ready to focus on them. Some examples are the notification that sounds each time we get a message or email, telephone calls, something happening outside our window, etc. These things and more clamor for our attention regularly make it difficult to remain focused on the task. So what do we do?

  1. Put your phone in silent mode unless you’re answering calls.
  2. Turn off notifications on your devices and ignore them until it’s time to check each day.
  3. Close your door, shut the shades on your window, etc.

Attention span

According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, our attention span, which has shrunk to eight seconds, is shorter than that of a goldfish (9 seconds). Our ability to stay focused on any topic for more than 20 minutes is problematic. Think about our news and the concept of sound bites, and we don’t want in-depth spots. We have been trained to like short, hard-hitting soundbites.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

We can train our minds to focus for as long as we need them to focus, but we must exhibit control. Our EQ measures our ability to manage our emotions and minds to achieve a happy and successful life.

EQ is defined by four attributes: Self-management (the key to controlling focus and attention), Self-awareness, Social Awareness, and Relationship management. I will cover these in depth in a future blog.

So the key elements for better focus and attention are.

  1. Remove distractions
  2. Build up your focus muscle
  3. Improve your EQ
  4. Focus on the immediate past and learn from what happened

Looking back is a way to sharpen the focus on the things you want to change in your life. I think there’s something about nostalgia that really puts a fine point on the here-and-now, and that can be incredibly fascinating and interesting and engaging for the mind. Sarah Paulson